Daily Archives: July 3rd, 2009

Further thoughts on the ‘sex positive’ response to prostitution

Following on from this post, and after reading this post and its comments thread (which lead me to the material for this quote of the day) at IBTP, and after reading through Laura Agustin’s blog, I have come to some conclusions.

As the ‘good girl’ and the ‘bad girl’ are two sides of the same patriarchal coin, so the pro-prostitution ‘sex positive’ and the Conservative woman (I am using here Andrea Dworkin’s account of the ‘domesticated female’ from Right-Wing Women), are also two sides of the same coin.

Both are engaged in a defence of the patriarchal status quo – although they are not defending exactly the same aspects of it.

Both are uncritical of men’s behaviour, and both are unquestioning of the idea that women exist to service men’s needs. For the ‘sex positive’ no extreme of male sexual behaviour can be questioned or criticised, as long as he is prepared to pay the market rate for it. For the Conservative woman, it is the role of women to act as ‘gate-keepers’ of male sexual behaviour; if men ‘stray’ it is either the fault of one woman for ‘leading him on’, or the fault of another woman for not performing her duty by catering to his ‘needs’ correctly in the first place.

Under both paradigms, men cannot be held fully responsible for their actions; male sexuality is an inevitable, unstoppable force of nature, and men themselves lack free will and reason to be able to control it. Also unquestionable is the contradictory mix of men’s ‘natural’ role as ‘head of the family’, along side male insecurity and helplessness that requires a woman as equal parts domestic drudge and personal cheerleader.

Under both paradigms, women are supposed to accept without complaining their role as existing only to service men’s needs (and to keep quiet about the boredom, lack of kindness or respect, and all but the most extreme violence) – the smart women is one who learns to manipulate as much material gain as possible out of that role, not one who tries to fight it, or decides she would rather be poor than submit to it.

Both the Conservative woman and the ‘sex positive’ are anti gender equality and anti feminist (although they may claim otherwise), both view any attempt to challenge men’s behaviour as trying to ‘police’ ‘private’ behaviour, and to go against ‘nature’. For both, the idea of a truly equal, egalitarian relationship between a man and a woman is impossible (and yes, I can see how funny it is for a radical feminist to be defending the possibility of decent relationships with men – we’re the one’s who are supposed to hate men after all!).